Mississippi Gulf Coast
My Aunt Alice Visited Me After All These Years…
And I Think I Know Why
I woke up this morning with my Aunt Alice on my mind. At first, I had no idea why she came to me. But, it was fun thinking about her and her love for me was comforting. I thought of all the fun we had I had when I visited my Uncle Dad and Aunt Alice Morris in Pineville, Mississippi – an area of what was “country” to me in the Long Beach area of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. When I was a girl, they lived on the property established by Aunt Alice’s father as a dairy farm and business. Her folks were still living there in the house – the Franks – and I enjoyed visiting with them and getting to know them when I was younger. The Franks were good people! I thought their farm was paradise. There was a large pecan grove, a big barn, outbuildings and plenty of animals. Glorious!
At one time, my Uncle David started raising quail in the big barn. He would let us go out and look at the quail operation. He sold the quail for meat. When it was Easter time, we brought quail eggs back home and dyed them just for fun. Quail eggs are pretty small, but, they are beautiful! We boiled them and dyed them along with our regular chicken eggs. My grandmother, Mamaw, would even pickle quail eggs. I would bring home quail eggs and twice used them as elementary level school science projects that landed me in the city-wide science fair. Once, I made first place! I loved raising the baby quail I hatched in my little incubator. Uncle David and Aunt Alice were proud of me.
My Aunt Alice had a smile that radiated through her eyes – the joy shone through. She had a way of making me feel good about myself. She appreciated the way I would watch over her little girls as a big sister would. This would give her some freedom and rest for a little bit. She and Uncle David had four girls – my sweet cousins – built in best friends. But that is a handful! Did I mention Renee and Rhonda’s spunkiness? It was a thing. A FUN thing. I felt close to that family and they loved me ever bit as much as I loved them. It is something that is hard to put in words sometimes. I can hear the laughter still today and it has been many, many years that have passed since I saw last saw my Aunt Alice and her girls together.
On the occasion of my high school graduation, my Aunt Alice gave me a questionable and definitely unexpected gift that made me scratch my head. (I have to bust out laughing every time I think about it now.) She gave me a sea-foam green negligee. I was shocked! I hate sea-foam green, always have. Sea-foam green reminds me of hospital walls. The negligee, well, okay, then. I would not know what women wore those things for until a few years passed. I was still in my flannel phase when it came to pajamas. Momma, a Southern Baptist, was floored. I opened it and very appreciatively and respectfully gave my sweet Aunt Alice thanks. She was so proud! She fully expected to flabbergast my mother, I could see it in her eyes. She meant to rile my mother up. She laughed! She said that I would need that in the years to come. Aunt Alice was full of life and passion! Enough said. I loved her all the more for her gumption. I don’t remember ever wearing the negligee and I don’t know what happened to it. I suspect my mother intervened, don’t you?
Although I never got “preached to” by her, Aunt Alice had a way of conveying her spiritual beliefs and I went to church with the her and Morris girls a few times when I spent the weekends with them, which was several times a year. And. I. Loved. Going. To. Pineville. I loved going to their little church in Pineville, too.
I felt freedom at the Frank/Morris farm. I fell in love with everything to do with country life. Even mucking out the chicken house. But, I felt the true sense of what it was like to grow up with a momma and daddy at a time I was living in a fatherless home. I saw the love in Aunt Alice’s face when she was with Uncle David. I learned from her that you could love a man whole-heartedly even when you disagreed with him. And I saw my Uncle David’s love for Aunt Alice. I saw she loved her parents very, very much and they loved her. It did my soul such good to see a family living together. Two generations with much respect going both ways. Aunt Alice had a good soul and shared her joy with all of us.
Uncle David and Aunt Alice did love their beer on the weekends. Uncle David turned us girls lose in the pecan grove with big burlap sacks and told us to pick up pecans that had fallen on the ground. He gave us fifty cents for a full bag. The bags were waist high on me and I was the tallest one of us kids in my family and theirs because I was the oldest. That was a lot of work, but, it was fun. I have never forgotten the smell of the pecan grove. I don’t know how to describe it, but, I have dearly missed it. Every fall, is still pecan time for me. I noticed Uncle David and Aunt Alice would leave us in the grove (right next to the house) and they would go drink beer with Momma and Mamaw on their front porch. Momma and Mamaw did not drink beer. At. All. They had coffee, thank you very much! That must have been a respite for all four of them to let us run wild while they rested from work.
The days I am thinking’ of were before the youngest daughter was born. She was born when I was around 17 and I loved to hold her. But, even after the youngest was born and was a toddler, I went camping with them on the Wolf River on our Uncle Johnny Morris’ private property – it even had a beach! They loved to fish, I loved to swim. Heaven. Some of the best days of my childhood were spent loving the Morris cousins and my beloved uncle and aunt. They were so good to me. I associate the word “freedom” with that family.
My Aunt Alice and Uncle David married when she was just 16 according to Mamaw. He was a tall and very handsome man. She was a stunning beauty. They both had the most beautiful eyes and smile. I did some of Aunt Alice’s family tree in connection with my family tree on Ancestry.com. Her ancestry was fascinating and her family history surprised me because I knew so little, really, about her background. I remember associating the Franks with German background when I was growing up. And I seem to remember some sort of foreign accent with Poppa Frank, but, that memory is now too far away in my mind and I may not be remembering correctly. I just know that marriages were strong in that family. And family was everything…
Except… the bowling alley (and church). I was luck enough to be the one in my family that got to hang out with the Morris cousins the most. They would pick me up and we’d all go to the bowling alley in Gulfport. My aunt and uncle were dang near professional when it came to bowling. They were in leagues. That was professional in my mind. They had their own bowling shoes and bowling ball. I was so going to have my own bowling equipment one day. I wanted to follow in their footsteps. But, actually, when they were bowling, they were all business. They won prizes for bowling while I ran with their daughters as what I now would call being “bowling alley rats”. We played in the background and I kept an eye on my cousins as my aunt and uncle seriously bowled. They were in tournaments. I was so amazed at them.
Aunt Alice went to tech school to get her diploma in medical records transcription. She went to work at Gulfport Memorial Hospital. She was “smart-as-a-whip”, as my mother liked to say about her. All four of my Morris cousins were smart-as-a-whip, too. I saw my Aunt Alice as a “women’s libber” and I saw she raised her daughters that way, too. She did not take any sh*t from nobody. That was something I admired in her. She could have a hot-temper, but, only if it was deserved. She had a strong will and a strong mind. I hope I have incorporated Aunt Alice into my life. I think I have, but, I could use more of her personality in my life. She knew how to have fun. I miss her laughter. And the expressions she made with her face. She could be so funny.
My Uncle David was in the Air Force and was a staff sergeant at Keesler Air Force Base. I remember visiting him at his office at Keesler. I was raised an Air Force Brat, so, anytime we had to go to the doctor, it was to Keesler A.F.B. hospital and clinic. Uncle David’s office (in an old barracks building) nearby. He was very handsome in a uniform I must say! Aunt Alice was proud of him, I could tell even if she did not say it out loud.
So, this was all in my head as I lie in bed this morning thinking about her. Sometimes I feel the angels in our lives come to us in the nighttime. Are they truly guardian angels? That is what I believed as a child. I think it is true now as well. I feel them the most in the morning and sometimes during the night. I will experience the need to get up and write about the special one I have on my mind. I think they are there for a reason. They seem so fresh in my memory. No years have passed, we have not aged. Sometimes I cry because I miss them so much, but, comforted that they have come back to visit.
In the 1990’s my mother sent me a precious ceramic figurine one year for Christmas from Mississippi when I lived in Palm Harbor, Florida. She said my Aunt Alice had made it in her sister’s ceramic shop. I had no idea Aunt Alice was crafty! Such painting talent! Is Aunt Alice’s spirit attached to that ceramic cow? All these years I have kept that Holstein cow on my kitchen window sill, until sometime a year or go I had moved it to my dining room hutch fearing I might accidentally break it. But, yesterday, I moved the cow back to my kitchen window sill, to make room for a little memorial shelf dedicated to my little Westie, Polie, who went to Rainbow Bridge last week. Was she sending me a sign that she was happy to be back on her window sill? I often thought of her as I washed dishes. Did she help me fix the memorial for Polie knowing she loved critters as much as I do?
Did Aunt Alice come to me to comfort me after the death of my sweet little doggie this past week? She passed years ago. I had not thought of her for some time, since the cow was no longer on my kitchen window sill, and now she shows up at a time I am feeling very spiritual about my dog. She was one of the great animal lovers in my life. She always had a dog or two hanging around on the farm. She re-homed our mean Shetland Pony and told me the pony drank coffee with her on her front porch. She loved him when he bit most of us kids. This is why I woke up and went straight to my laptop to record my memories and thoughts of her, so I would not lose them. I smile because I am comforted by thinking of the love Aunt Alice and Uncle David gave me. Without a doubt, I am grateful and I am blessed.
And now, the cardinal couple just appeared at my bird feeder. Angels watchin’ over me…
Alice Claire “Frank” Morris (11 AUG 1938 – 13 OCT 1999)
Installation Of Officers By West Ward PTA
Mrs. James P. Estrada was installed as president of the Gulfport West Ward Elementary Parent Teachers’ Association Thursday evening at the annual meeting for the year in the school auditorium.
Walter Ewing, who will be the new principal at the school for the 1967-68 session, was installing officer.
Mrs. Estrada, who succeeds Mrs. Ben Weeks, is a member of the faculty of Bayou View Junior High School.
Installed also were Mrs. Donald Suber, vice president; Mrs. J. L. Pullen, secretary; and Mrs. Curtis Parker treasurer.
This newspaper account is one of the articles my mother sent me through the years that she’d clipped and saved for me.
No date or name of publication is given. It is presumed the newspaper was The Daily Herald (Mississippi Gulf Coast) because that is the newspaper my family subscribed to all of my life. The year was probably 1967 – dates of school year).
When Martha M. (Park) was born on June 17, 1826, in Athens, Georgia, her father was Baptist Park and her mother was Frances. She married James P. Wright in 1845 in Jackson, Butts, Georgia when she was 19 years old. They had one child, Frances M. “Fanny” during their marriage.
In 1840, when Martha was 14 years old, her mother, Frances “Fanny” (Chandler) Park, died.
In 1845, Martha married James P. Wright. She was 19 years old. January 8, 1845 brought Martha a daughter in Georgia whom she named Frances “Fanny”.
According to an 1850 Census: Martha lived in Jackson, Butts County, Georgia – Subdivision 45. The census lists Baptist Park 50 as a farmer, Martha M. Wright 22, Frances V. Parks 20, Nancy C. Parks 18, Frances M. Wright 5.
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Biloxi Daily Herald
October 13, 1894
A PORTION OF THE PRINCIPAL STREET OF BILOXI IN ASHES.
Business Houses and Residences Were Burned Like so Much Chaff
LOSS ABOUT $75,000—INSURANCE $28,000.
Heroic Action of Firemen and Citizens
Biloxi has again been visited by a conflagration more sweeping in extent and entailing a financial loss greater than that of the fire of June, 1889. Friday morning about 2 o’clock a private watchman discovered flames issuing from the two-story building of Jos. W. Swetman, located on Pass Christian st., main thoroughfare, and in the most densely populated portion of the city. The alarm was sounded and the fire department turned out in quick order, but the flames had gained such headway that it was impossible to save the building and efforts of the firemen were directed to those adjoining. The Swetman building was occupied by J. W. Swetman a drug-store with sleeping apartments on the second floor occupied by his family, and so rapidly did the fire eat its way that the family were only able to hastily gather a few articles of clothing and make their escape. Another portion of this building on the first floor was occupied John W. Henley, as a oyster saloon. Adjoining the Swetman building, and on the west the fire quickly communicated to the engine room of Mechanics Fire Co., and from that to the Masonic Opera House, a large frame structure. Continuing its course west, on Pass Christian street, the two buildings owned by John Eistetter, one occupied by J. H. Murphy as a blacksmith shop, and the other by P. Ferzar, as a lunch house, were consumed as was also the tin shop belonging to Dan Markey, and a small residence, both in the rear and owned by Jno. Eistetter. Crossing Magnolia street the storehouse and dwelling of Miss St. Tual was soon in ashes. The fire in its eastern course was checked with the burning of the market-house of Felix Borries, by the most desperate and heroic work on the part of both firemen and citizens.
Before this time, however, buildings were burning in all directions, and it looked as if the larger portion of the city would be consumed before the wrath of the fiery monster was appeased. Opposite the Opera House the large two-story business house and dwelling of S. Picard was in flames, and in the flying cinders the intense heat almost immediately ignited the residence of W. K. M. Dukate, on the east and a cottage on Magnolia street, owned by N. Voivedich and occupied by F. W. Eaton. With the destruction of the last named building the flames were, checked on Magnolia street, although the house south of it and occupied by T. E. Colline, was badly scorched.
On the south side of Pass Christian street the residence of Mrs. Rich and a small building adjoining, occupied as a candy store were being rapidly reduced to ashes only to be followed in quick succession by the building occupied by Joseph Lawrence as a shoe shop, and the barber shop J. Kilk both owned by George Ohr, Sr. From the barber shop the next to fall a prey to the fiery demon was the large two-story building owned by Chas. Redding and occupied by him as a residence and grocery store. South of Redding’s a cottage belonging to Dr. J. J. Lemon and occupied by Mrs. Kelty, was burned as was also a two-story cottage adjoining, belonging to Geo. Ohr, Sr. On the north side of Pass Christian st., and east of the Swetman building, four small buildings owned by the same gentlemen, were destroyed—one of these was without a tenant and the other occupied by Sing Lee as a laundry; H. Eikel, merchant tailor; and Mrs. Ohr, grocer.
The fire in this direction was checked at the building owned by Mrs. Amare and occupied by Keel & Jennett, grocers. This building was damaged to the extent of about $100, and it seemed at times beyond the power of human beings to save the structure and it was only by almost superhuman efforts that the flames were checked at this point. The destruction of this building would have followed by the loss of many more, and with this appalling fact staring them in the face the firemen worked with redoubled vigor and until their hands and faces were scorched and blistered by the devouring element.
In the rear of the property last destroyed stood the famous pottery of Geo. E. Ohr, whose shop during the past severel [sic] years has been visited by hundreds of visitors from other sections and from almost every State in the Union, seeking relics in artistic pottery. In a few moments the toil and work of Ohr, the artistic potter, was reduced to ashes.
In the rear of the opera-house the planning mills of John R. Harkness & Sons, together with a large amount of finished work and lumber, was destroyed.
In the upper story of the opera-house were the lodge rooms of the Masons and Knights of Pythias. The regalia and all paraphernalia of both orders were completely destroyed, only the secretary’s and treasurer’s books of the Masonic order being saved.
On the ground floor of the opera-house was the office of the Postal Telegraph Co., and the watch-maker shop of B. M. Root, both suffering a total loss.
Fortunately there was but little wind during the conflagration, else the damage would have been more than doubled. As it was, houses several blocks away from the seat of the fire were ignited by flying cinders, and it was only by the closest surveillance that many other buildings were not added to the conflagration.
The Convent of Mercy, situated some distance from the scene, was on fire twice, but before gaining any headway, the flames were extinguished.
During the height of the fire, and until it was well under control, much excitement prevailed among residents in the neighborhood. Houses were emptied of their contents, and vehicles of all sorts were pressed in service to aid in conveying the goods to a place of safety. In many instances this was found to be unnecessary. Household goods were piled helter-skelter in every direction, and when daylight came, the scene presented cannot be described. The area of the fire covers the larger portion of four squares in the heart of the city and as the buildings destroyed were all of wood, there was little resistance to the flames.
[Partially illegible paragraph] paraphernalia, $500; insurance on opera-house, $1500.
Knights of Pythias, $1000; insurance, $600.
Geo. Ohr, Sr., $5000; no insurance.
John R. Harkness & Sons, $3000; no insurance.
Miss St. Tual, $700; insurance, $2000.
Geor E. Ohr, $3000; no insurance.
H. Eikel, $2800; insurance $1000.
J. Kilk, $400; no insurance.
Jos. Lawrence, $100; no insurance.
Mrs. Rich (2 houses), loss unknown.
Dan Markey, $250; no insurance.
Mechanics’ Steam Fire Co., $400; no insurance.
J. H. Murphy, $100; no insurance.
Felix Borries, $400, no insurance.
N. Voivedich, $700; no insurance.
F. W. Eaton, $00; no insurance.
J. Eistetter, $1000; no insurance.
B. M. Root, $400; no insurance.
P. Ferrar, $800; no insurance.
The insurance is divided among the following companies of E. W. Morrill’s agencies:
Royal $00; Harford, $6450; American Fire, $2345; Phoenix of London, $2275; Phenix of Brooklyn, $2550; Lancashire, $2000; Queen, $1500; Liverpool, London and Globe, $3500; Mechanics and Traders, $3200.
In but few instances was any portion of the contents of the burned buildings saved, and then only in a damaged condition. There is also considerable loss in the way of outhouses, stables, fences, etc.
The Electric Light Co. lose [sic] about $6000 in the destruction of poles wires, transformers, etc.
Many of those burned out will commence rebuilding at once. The loss is a severe one to our people, and to many is the loss of all their possessions. The business men who own property along Pass Christian st., to whom a Herald reporter has talked to on the subject signify their willingness to widen the street ten feet on either side than its present width.
The Herald building was threatened by flying cinders, and had it not been covered with abestos [sic], there is but little doubt that the roof would have ignited and it would have been almost impossible to have saved the building from destruction, and that or other and valuable property. Owners having property in the west end of town can thank their lucky stars that this office was covered by asbestos [sic], for had it burned the destruction would have been three fold greater than now recorded.
My great great grandfather John Rankin Harkness’s business is mentioned as destroyed in this article. Capt. John Rankin Harkness (1830-1903) was one of the founders of the Biloxi Fire Dept. He was born in Pelham, Hampshire, Massachusetts, the son of William Harkness and Abigail Turner.
Capt. John Rankin HARKNESS (1830 – 1903) — My 2nd great-grandfather
Edna Irene HARKNESS (1880 – 1952), daughter of Capt. John Rankin HARKNESS
John Harkness MORRIS (1901 – 1965), son of Edna Irene HARKNESS
Janie Lucille MORRIS (1935 – 2013), daughter of John Harkness MORRIS
Me, the daughter of Janie Lucille MORRIS
Charter of Incorporation of The John R. Harkness and Sons Building and Milling Company of Biloxi, Miss.
Biloxi Daily Herald
May 6, 1893
CHARTER OF INCORPORATION of The John R. Harkness and Sons Building and Milling Company of Biloxi, Miss.
Be it remembered that on the 2d [sic] day of January, in the year of our Lord 1893, that John R. Harkness, Wm. T. Harkness, Giles A. Harkness, and J. Lewis Harkness and such other persons as may hereafter become associated with them and their successors, be and are hereby constituted a body corporate under the name and title of The John R. Harkness and Sons Building and Milling Company, and as such may have a common seal, may sure and be sued, plead and be impleaded in all the courts of this State, may contract and be contracted with may own and acquire real and personal property as provided by law, relating to corporations.
Section 2. This corporation is created for the purpose of doing a general milling, building and lumber business and shall exist for a period of twenty-five (25) years, unless sooner dissolved by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the stockholders, and its domicile shall be Biloxi, Harrison County Mississippi.
Sec. 4. The officers of said corporation shall be a president, vice-president and a secretary and treasurer who shall be elected aunually [sic] and shall serve for one year or until their successors are elected. The following officers shall hold the offices of said corporation for one year from the approval of this corporation, to-wit, John R. Harkness, president, ____ _____, vice-president, ____ _____, secretary and treasurer.
Sec. 5. Said corporation may enact such by-laws for its government as may be deemed expedient by a majority of the stock-holders.
Sec. 6. Said corporation shall have such other powers, as provided by chapter 25 of the Annotated Code relating to Corporations.
Sec. 7. This charter shall be in force and effect from and after its approval.
April 22, 1893
Capt. John Rankin HARKNESS (1830 – 1903) My 2nd great-grandfather…
Edna Irene HARKNESS (1880 – 1952) daughter of Capt. John Rankin HARKNESS
John Harkness MORRIS (1901 – 1965) son of Edna Irene HARKNESS
Janie Lucille MORRIS (1935 – 2013) daughter of John Harkness MORRIS
Me, the daughter of Janie Lucille MORRIS
Rosa Anna Elizabeth (Smith) Morris, R. N. — my grandmother!
Daughter of John George and Mary Jane (Rice) Smith of Neshoba County, Mississippi.
Rosa was also known as Mrs. Rosie S. Morris, R.N., married to John Harkness Morris. She was a popular icon at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, Harrison County, Mississippi. She spent many years as a private duty nurse at Memorial Hospital. She also made little crocheted turtles and afghans sold in the hospital gift shop.